It is about a decade since we first met Lorraine Heskin of Gourmet Food parlour. Back then herself and business partner Lorraine Byrne had just opened their small and lovely Gourmet Food Parlour in Dun Laoghaire. A mix of excellent daytime fare and a small tapas menu in the evenings, accompanied by local musicians hit a popular note and within a few years they had expanded to 9 restaurants and catering and events business.
The original GFP is no more, replaced by the large seafront restaurant in Dun Laoghaire and they also do the food in Dublin’s popular House on Leeson Street and 37 Dawson street. Not to mention feeding the Dublin GAA! We caught up to find the secret of their success, from the small beginnings, to surviving the recession. What made them such a success when so many others had fallen by the wayside?
What led you to set up a restaurant in the first place?
We could never have dreamed of the success of our ‘little idea for a quirky style cafe’ growing to where it is today. We really wanted to create a new style of dining in Dublin with a strong emphasis on relaxed, funky surroundings and really tasty food. Starting with just 12 employees in Dun Laoghaire in 2006 to over 200 employees today is one of our proudest achievements. We are constantly striving to ensure that each place remains a pillar in the local community along with keeping menus fresh and new to offer customers the best food in Dublin. “The aim from the start of this journey was to offer something that combined a mix of food influences with a homemade twist” Lorraine explains. Freshness, quality, and homemade were three key criteria, our food is produced on site each day, with locally sourced ingredients where possible”.
Our love of good food and fine wines as well as a desire to start our own business sparked the idea for a quirky style restaurant in Dublin city. While working in New York in the food and catering business from 2002 - 2004, Lorraine Heskin was really inspired by some of the new style restaurants and trends that were emerging in New York at that time.
“I was particularly taken with The Garden of Eden which was a quirky fine food market and deli offering fantastic artisan foods and a cool funky design and Katz deli offering some of the most famous artisan sandwiches in the city. We were determined to create a unique offering in Dublin combining some of my experiences from New York with my business partner’s Lorraine’s ideas for funky style eatery”. We opened our first restaurant in Dun Laoghaire in 2006 and we have grown to 8 locations in Dublin as well as a large catering and events business.
How do you decide on menus?
We aim to combine passion for warm hospitality with delicious wholesome food and we offer a good choice of menus for our customers. Our main menu options include breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and within each menu, there are plenty to choose from. Our breakfast menu consists of the traditional breakfast dishes as well as some new quirky dishes which are proving very popular. Our lunch menu boasts our famous salads, sandwiches made with fresh Bretzel breads and our own favourites for a hot lunch option such as quesadillas, vegan burrito, hearty beef burger and wings. The recent launch of our new dinner menu combines our tasty tapas plates with large plates for a complete dinner experience. Our much-loved brunch menu is served on Saturday and Sundays in our restaurants and our dishes offer a great mix of our most popular breakfast and lunch dishes in one menu.
Your tapas menu is very good - Paolo was a big fan - do you travel to Spain for inspiration?
Both Lorraine and I have lived in Spain during our college years and it was here that we found a love for the laid-back Spanish way of eating tapa. We wanted to bring a little of that Spanish food culture to Dublin, so we started our Tapas nights in our first Dun Laoghaire restaurant back in 2006. Our menus have evolved over the years and now offer both a fabulous tapas selection as well as a la carte dishes also. Our newly launched early bird offering is proving very popular in our restaurants with a great 2 course menu with wine from just €23pp. During the Summer months, we run Summer jazz nights and tapas evenings.
How do you keep it fresh Lorraine?
I love what I do so staying motivated and inspired comes naturally to me! I am always looking at new and exciting opportunities to grow the business and I am not afraid of hard work. I am a person who always looks forward to the next project whilst making sure that our current business is working to the best that it can be. My passion and enthusiasm that I had over 12 years ago is still as strong as ever and I look forward to the coming years with gusto! We have lots of plans to grow the business and take on new projects along the way which I hope will only add to the success of our Gourmet Food Parlour story.
How important are the staff?
Our staff are what make Gourmet Food Parlour unique. Our managers working in our restaurants have been with us long term, so they are fully committed to our customer service ethos and work tirelessly to ensure that every customer leaves with a smile on their face. We are very lucky we have a very low employee turnover, we really respect our staff, the core values of the business lie with making sure we set high standards of food and service and our team work so hard to achieve that. With over 200 staff now working in Gourmet Food parlour, it is so important that the values of the brand are portrayed in the right way to all members of our teams. With that in mind, we recently opened a bespoke training centre where we run training courses in all aspects of customer service from table etiquette, menu training, cocktail training and barista school to ensure that our teams know what is expected in terms of customer service. We also strive to ensure that our teams are working in a happy positive environment which ensures that they enjoy their job which ultimately reflects in their work.
What’s the story with the GAA?
We are very proud partners of the Dublin GAA County Board and have worked with them for over 5 years now. We provide all the refuel requirements for all teams from development squads right up to the senior football and hurling teams. We are delighted with the success of the Dublin Senior Team in the All Ireland Series over the past three years and it has been our pleasure to play a small part in their training regime. We work very closely with the team’s nutritionists to ensure that they are getting the optimum refuel for their performances and we work closed with team members to cater for individual training needs and refuel requirements.
We are also working closely with the Dublin Ladies GAA, Gymnastics Ireland, Swim Ireland, Irish Boxing team, Cricket Ireland and Hockey Ireland and are proud to the leading sports caterers in Ireland.
Where do you want to go from here?
We never rest on our laurels and we are always looking at new opportunities for the business. Our 5 main objectives for 2018 are as follows:
Open a new Gourmet Food Parlour in the gorgeous town of Skerries this summer.
Open a new state of the art catering and events kitchen with scope for larger events and weddings as well as increasing sports and corporate caterings.
Seek out new opportunities in restaurant locations with a view to expanding the brand across Dublin and spreading the GFP ethos!
Further develop our food offering, set trends & change our menus accordingly
Focus on staff training and development over the coming year to ensure we retain our best people and arm them with the tools to excel in their roles